For me, pulpit supply is becoming more and more difficult. Not because I don’t like giving sermons, but because I don’t know any of the people I’m preaching to. I don’t know what they are going through, what they are experiencing, where they have come from, the difficulties and hardships they have had to endure or anything of that sort. The preaching pastor almost acts as a liaison between the congregation and God. Hear me out on this as I don’t wish to express that the congregation’s only option to access God is through the pastor. But rather, I am saying that the pastor finds himself in between the life of God and the life of the parishioners every single day. God is saying one thing, while the world is telling the parishioners another thing. The preaching pastor brings these two worlds together, putting flesh on the Word of God in the parishioner’s lives. The sermon is a subversive act pitting itself against the voices of the world insisting the the Word of God has a place in the world of culture. Thus, the whole week leading up to Sunday worship, the pastor is listening not only to the Word of God, but also the words and small talk of people. His/her task is to bring these words together, to find a place where the Word of God speaks, not in just an ancient biblical context, but in our contemporary contexts.
When providing pulpit supply, you are essentially in a one-sided conversation. You have wrestled with the Word of God all week, but not one bit with the words of the people you are preaching to. A pastor and I were recently talking about preaching which led to speaking about pulpit supply. He told me when he was in seminary that him and a buddy would always compare pulpit supply to prostitution. Why? Well, you go to a church perform a trick or two (a sermon and prayer), get paid, and leave. There is no connection. No bond. Just church sex. If there were to be such a term. He was onto something. Because in pulpit supply, the pastor is not able to treat the parishioners as a subject, but rather as an object. The exact same thing that prostitution allows to happen.